D Gray Man Hallow Series Review

 

Overview:

A continuation/reboot of the D Gray Man series; we follow as the Order take on the Noah in a fight to determine the fate of the world. However, inside the Order there are secrets and plans that the exorcists know nothing about and Allen Walker is going to get caught up in the middle.

I reviewed this week to week so if you are interested in my thoughts on individual episodes click here.

Review:

By the way, it should go without saying, but this post will have spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen the original D Gray Man so if you intend to watch and want to be surprised, skip now.

There are two ways this review could go. I can be totally detached and just objectively list the merits and problems with this show or I can go into complete fan-girl mode and just gush about how great it is to see all of these characters again after an 8 year gap. Yep, 8 years left on a cliff hanger as the headquarters of the Order were destroyed and Lenalee’s weapon transformed into the blood crystal thing and that’s where we left it.

Normally shows that don’t end and those that don’t end and leave us on a cliff hanger, go into my list of been there, done that, don’t watch again. D Gray Man was different. I loved it more than Bleach and Soul Eater. It even blew away any nostalgia for Sailor Moon while I was watching the original. It was my absolute favourite anime ever (and that was saying something). There was just something about the cast of characters and the weird mix of really over the top emotional drama followed by incredibly clunky comedy that appealed in a way that other shows couldn’t. Individual events in the show were incredibly moving and some of the things the characters went through were heart-breaking and yet the show itself (while intensely dark at times) always held that small little glimmer of hope.

But this is not a review of the original series. I’m saving that for a long way down the track when I kind of feel I’ve figured out exactly what I want to write in a review.

From a fan-girl point of view, this story continuing was the most amazing thing ever. I tried really hard to downplay how excited I was because after 8 years I knew things were going to be different and there was a good chance it wouldn’t be any good. There was also the issue that only 13 episodes had been announced and 13 episodes just didn’t seem long enough to do anything given how long it took us to get to where we were last time.

So let’s take the fan-girl and nostalgia lens off and let’s just look at the 13 episodes we were given by Hallow.

Right, first point: If you haven’t watched the original series, this continuation/reboot gives you about five minutes of character introductions during a fight sequence that makes little sense from a narrative point of view and that is supposed to be your catch up on who the main cast are and how they fight. Bad Hallow. This fight didn’t please fans of the series much because the attacks being used are excessive for the forces they are facing and we don’t have any real idea why they are facing these guys or why all of the main cast are together given how rarely that happens in the show because they keep sending little sub-groups off in all directions. For people who weren’t familiar with the show, this was a confused mess of an introduction and didn’t really endear anyone new to the series.

Second point: Allen and Kanda are the standout characters in Hallow. Krory and Lavi are at best bystanders. Thinking about it from the point of view of someone who has no knowledge of the show, it’s possible you entirely missed that these two were actually main characters. Seems like most of the rest of the cast have forgotten that Lavi is a main character too given no one seems to be caring that he’s been kidnapped by the Noah. Seriously? Sorry, Lavi is one of my favourite characters and his treatment in Hallow is a little criminal (not that I don’t want him to be kidnapped, but it would be nice if this had some narrative impact or affected his so-called friends a little bit).

That said, Kanda is finally given a backstory and it is completely heart-wrenching. You kind of knew that his past would be horrible (given all of the other character story’s) but the way his particular tragedy is played out and the implications for the moral compass of the entire Order is truly the take-a-way moment from Hallow. Even if everything else had sucked, Kanda and Alma’s story would have been worth watching.

Allen’s story is equally emotional but a lot of it requires prior knowledge of Allen and you need to actually care about the overall conflict. That, and Allen’s story is not touchingly brought to a close during Hallow, in fact we are left right in the middle of it with all of the characters focussed on Allen and wondering what will happen next, which doesn’t really help the audience get any closure.

Lenalee fares better than Lavi and Krory but she doesn’t get much chance to show off the fact that she actually can be a pretty good fighter. Then again, that was always a persistent problem with Lenalee. Long gaps in-between action where she would serve the other characters cups of tea. In that respect, Hallow kind of just keeps her being Lenalee.

The Noah are fairly present during the 13 episodes but it doesn’t feel like we’ve gotten any closer to any of them. Road is still awesome but she barely appears. While as individual characters the Noah aren’t really developing, as an overall threat they do make their presence felt. However, they are more of a natural disaster kind of threat than individuals and it kind of feels like the show would like us to notice they have individual emotions and motives but it doesn’t give us enough time to really care about them.

So the characters are a bit of a mixed bag in Hallow. Then again, if I were to take 13 episodes out of the original we’d probably have the same problem. Characters do disappear for extended lengths of time while we focus on other stories and then we come back to them eventually. Again, newcomers to the show will be lost by a lot of what goes on and won’t really know why some other character points are significant. The only two characters you will really gain any kind of connection with are Kanda and Allen.

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Third point: What are they doing with the pace? Let’s fight, let’s go investigate, let’s make a new friend, wait we’re fighting again, sad moment flash back, fight… Okay, we get that there’s a lot you want to do and a lot you want to tell us, and that the original series is also plagued by pacing issues, but if I entirely take the fan-girl in me away, the pacing is rubbish. It is genuinely bad and distracting to the plot and character development.

Fourth point: Visuals? Alright, this is where fans are split. Visually, D Gray Man Hallow is fine when looked at in terms of just being a show. It isn’t particularly beautiful or well done, but neither is it ugly. The problem is it isn’t D Gray Man. The colour palette is too bright and most of the scenes are too bright. D Gray Man was almost always dark and dripped atmosphere whereas Hallow really doesn’t feel like it has a distinct visual identity. That said, I didn’t find the visuals a put off, but they certainly don’t draw me in the way the original did.

Fifth point: The story continues but where are we really going? The fight between the Order and the Noah is always in the background of this show and individual conflicts (that somehow tie into that) are almost always in the foreground. The 13 episodes we had here almost entirely revolved around the conflict with the Noah, which is a massive deviation from how the war has been conducted prior. That’s part of the reason why so many characters have been sidelined. They aren’t strong enough to survive a fight with the Noah and we already know that given how effective the Noah have been previously at killing exorcists. The problem with this entire focus on the Noah is that we still don’t actually know what they want (other than to destroy Innocence) and now the Order’s motives (which were always questionable) are entirely suspect. So we are following a conflict between two groups and we don’t really know what either is ultimately striving for. Meanwhile we are mostly following the story of the lower grunts who really don’t know what is going on but are having to make some really significant moral choices.

Here’s the thing with the plot. I love it and I love that we aren’t being spoon-fed everything in an instant. However, if the story doesn’t continue then we’ll be left in limbo, again.

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Final point given this has gone on long enough: Is Hallow entertaining? For me, I loved it. I loved being back in this world with these characters and seeing the story move on. The visual changes aside (and voice actors), it just felt right. It was like reuniting with an old friend. You’ve both changed but somehow none of that matters because you are just happy to see them again.

Recommendation: If you haven’t watched the original series and you don’t mind dark anime, check it out right now and then watch Hallow. If you’ve seen the original and you haven’t watched Hallow, watch Hallow. Also, keep hoping and hoping that they don’t end it here. If you don’t like your anime dark and you don’t like seeing main characters going through hell, this anime is not for you.

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D Gray Man Hallow Episode 13

Review:

As a season end this was kind of lame (assuming 13 episodes is season end). Nothing is resolved and we have one character on the run, another one returning from being on the run but not really re-joining the team and two characters still in enemy hands but then again, I never expected anything to be resolved in 13 episodes. It’s been a long running series and nothing has ever happened that fast so the fact that the Kanda and Alma story was wrapped up as quickly as it was surprised me earlier in the season.

This episode as an episode was really enjoyable. Seeing Allen and Cross after they first met and getting some more hints about Cross’ involvement with Allen becoming the Fourteenth was interesting. Actually being reminded that Lavi and Bookman are still in the hands of the Noah and the Noah being their usual callous selves was entertaining (though, they hurt Lavi so now they have to die – sorry). Lenalee being her usual overly emotional self before Kanda’s return felt really nostalgic and the crystallisation of Mugen (while downplayed within an already packed episode) was something I’d kind of been waiting for given the enemies just keep getting stronger so eventually our exorcists are going to have to catch up or die.

By the way, is Link actually dead? I know we saw his gravestone but it just seems really kind of anti-climatic for him to have died then.

Alright, whole season review of this is going to be tough to write but look out for it. If you are still deciding whether to watch Hallow, basically don’t bother unless you have watched the previous D Gray Man. While you might catch up on the storyline, without the emotional connections to the events, it is going to be pretty flat. That said, if you have watched the original, while there are definitely stylistic difference, from a story point of view this is a great continuation, we just need more.

D Gray Man Hallow is available on AnimeLab.

D Gray Man Hallow Episode 11

Review:

Does Link actually taking action for Allen this week redeem him for not trusting Allen in the first place? Probably not, but at least Link made a decision and didn’t blindly follow orders. While they didn’t show us his ultimate fate, it kind of seems like that’s more or less it for Link at this time.

We still didn’t find the heart but we now found a ‘special’ kind of innocence that exists to protect the heart and we now know who killed Cross but we don’t know why. That said, the Cardinal’s actions force Allen out of the Order and the thing is, it kind of felt like going with the Noah was the less horrible decision to make which given some of things they’ve done really makes you wonder what the Order is up to that the Noah are a better choice.

Of course, Tyki and Road are just kind of awesome so if Allen had to go with the Noah at least it was those two (cruel and twisted though they both are).

Well over my 100 words but just need to mention Lenalee. For most of Hallow she’s either been background or absent, which is a shame because in the early days of D Gray Man she was a very tough fighter and she helped Allen out a lot. Okay, she did go through that whole part where her innocence broke and she couldn’t fight but she finally overcame even that. Seeing her spring back into action at the end of this episode was definitely a great moment and I am looking forward to seeing some more next time (assuming they continue with this and don’t go off on some weird tangent).

D Gray Man Hallow is available on AnimeLab.

D Gray Man Hallow Episode 10

Review:

Just what the show needed, more infighting on both sides and more complications (I’m being a little sarcastic). This was a great episode. Characters reflected on the previous battle and began manoeuvring for the next rounds. There was a good balance between depression and feeling sorry for themselves and the desperate humour that the characters interject in order to stop the audience falling into a chasm of self-loathing. Allen and Link’s discussion in the prison was touching. Lenalee and friends being force-fed to try to get over the losses in the battle and to think about the next fight was both funny and sweet as we once again realise the bonds these characters have built up throughout the series. And the leaders of the order continue to be completely arrogant and I really wanted the ceiling to fall in on them. Oh, and Lavi and Bookman look like they are in some serious trouble.Plus Road showed up again. Even when she isn’t doing much, Road appearing is fantastic. A lot of emotions in a fairly low key episode when you consider that action-wise almost nothing happened.

D Gray Man Hallow is available on AnimeLab.

D Gray Man Hallow Episode 9

Review:

Too much to say. Firstly, Alma and Kanda Yu’s saga decided to take things and make them just one step sadder and they were already pretty devastating. I loved how Allen helped them this episode and feel that if anything ‘good'(?) was going to come out of it, Allen found the best possible solution to one of the worst situations for two characters to be in. And the brass’ reaction is pretty much expected at this point and time. Brand Allen a traitor. Because nothing inspires loyalty in your troops like doubting them, arresting them, performing medical experiments on them, etc. Why does anyone even still work for the Order? It isn’t like they are doing such a great job in fighting this war. Maybe the exorcists would be better off forming their own order. One that isn’t crazy and sadistic.

Anyway, despite being told he’s committed an act of treason and that if he doesn’t retrieve Alma he won’t be an exorcist anymore, Allen continues to try to save one of the exorsists that has Alma’s cells inside of him going crazy. And you know, he was even kind of succeeding until Link shows up right at the end just in time to make things worse. Yeah, we know there’s a whole thing going on with Allen and the Fourteeth, but time and place Link.

On the other hand, Kanda actually thanked Allen. I couldn’t believe it. Over a 100 episodes and for once, Kanda is actually grateful for Allen’s well-intentioned soft-hearted intrusions. Admittedly, Kanda has been through a lot in the last three episodes, but that was unexpected and totally heart breaking simultaneously.

If I have to complain about something, it would be the fact that the Earl and the others seems to be sitting around having a tea party while the exorcists are doing all this in-fighting. Hello, Earl, are you actually serious about defeating anyone? Because this episode would have been the perfect time to do it. And from the preview of next episode it looks like after this the bad guys are just packing up and leaving even though right now they really could crush the Order and there really isn’t anyone left to stop them.

D Gray Man Hallow is available on AnimeLab.

D Gray Man Hallow Episode 8

Review:

Is it possible to become darker and more tragic than child experimentation in the name of saving the Earth? D Gray Man makes a good attempt at answering that question this week when Allen is given a choice of ending the fight between Kanda and Alma by joining the Earl. Obviously he refuses, but that’s more or less what the Earl had in mind and things only get worse from there. We do get a very classic Allen and Kanda moment mid-battle but it is a brief reprieve and by the end we realise that no matter what the outcome of this battle is going to be, Kanda is going to be even more emotionally damaged than he was going in, and that cannot possibly be a good thing.

Amazing episode. Still loving D Gray Man. Oh, and I only just went over my 100 words.

D Gray Man Hallow is available on AnimeLab.

D Gray Man Hallow Episode 7

Review:

When D Gray Man first came back, one of my biggest worries was that it wouldn’t be the dark and emotionally turbulent story I knew and loved. The last two episodes have really put that worry to rest. I am really thankful for previews of the next episode now because I was genuinely worried about the fate of one character this episode and got no closure before the credits on whether he was still alive. On this episode, we continue our journey through Kanda and Alma’s memories until Allen decides he’s had enough and breaks out. However, as Road points out, it’s just a little bit too late and things in the real world are only getting worse. Still, that final shot of Kanda is all kinds of awesome so looking forward to next week.

D Gray Man Hallow is available on AnimeLab.

D Gray Man Hallow Episode 5

Review:

Right, I’m back to fangirling. This episode was amazing. From start to finish I loved it. I loved that the scientists had some focus time, and I really, really hope they don’t die tragically in the next episode or two, though given it’s D Gray Man, they actually might kill them off. It would be too much to hope that the directors of human experimentation (and I know that isn’t their title but it really should be) get killed off instead. The Noah attack on the base, Allen coming to the rescue, the brief moment of comedy before the fourteenth tried an extreme hostile takeover on Allen, the scuffle that followed and ending with Allen seeing Alma and Yu’s memories… It was a near perfect episode. Okay, the pacing was all over the shop and the comedy, while very D Gray Man, probably interfered with what was otherwise a super tense moment, but I just loved watching this episode.

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I think this show highlights what I enjoy about D Gray Man. Allen charges in to save a comrade and lands on the Millenium Earl and has to be first told that he has just landed on the main villain, meanwhile he’s looking around at all the other hostages and Noah thinking ‘what is going on?’. The following exchange that goes from deadly serious to comedy to slapstick and back again might rub some people the wrong way but it is what I love about this show. And then it ends just when things are getting even more interesting meaning I now have to count the days down to the next episode.

D Gray Man Hallow is available on AnimeLab.

D Gray Man Hallow Episode 3

Review:

Spoilers abound if you haven’t watched the episode. Normally I avoid critical plot points in episode reviews, but this one kind of needs to be here.

I’ll cover the bad first. The animation and character designs took a serious dive in the second half of this episode. Which in a series where the original was way too dark and the animation was passable but worked with the atmosphere and now the reboot has taken extreme liberties with the colour and character designs seems risky. Change was fine after a long break but further reduction in quality isn’t.

From a plot point of view this episode nicely wraps up the orphanage story, introduces yet another type of Innocence and has someone who doesn’t possess Innocence defeat an Akuma (which if you haven’t watched a lot of D Gray Man won’t seem like such a big deal except that it is a major plot development). Now I want to know what the Crows are up to and how underhanded they’ve been to acquire that power and I’m positive it is going to have some really nasty consequences down the line.

And Allen… Okay, we knew right from the first episode of Hallow that there was some serious focus on what was going on with Allen and whether or not he is part of the Noah, but this was fantastic. When his sword stabbed him I kind of had an ‘oh no’ moment because I remembered what happened when he used it on a Noah in the previous series and yep, this was not good. Though, in true D Gray Man style, rather than let this happen now, they give us just a taste of the disaster awaiting our characters and then Kanda swoops in and snaps Allen out of it. Though, I’m going to be honest, I felt like Allen was off for the remainder of the episode and I wonder if that is deliberate or just a by-product of the change in character design. Really wanting to know where this one is going.

So, still in love with this show but would really appreciate some consistency in the animation quality – not asking for amazing animation because that would be out of character for the series, but just stable performance. It is really rare for an action anime to get me this emotionally invested but D Gray Man succeeded in the original series and it has managed to maintain that feeling now. I don’t think anyone coming into the series at this point would be quite so hooked (mostly because they won’t have much idea of what is going on) but for me, this is the story I waited for.

Yeah, I’m never going to be able to review D Gray Man in 100 words.

D Gray Man Hallow is available on AnimeLab.

D Gray Man Episode 2

Review:

This episode is classic D Gray Man in everyway imaginable (good and bad). While we get a few moments and discussions around the greater battle and the exorcists plan as usual Allen and crew are mostly in the dark so let’s put aside the main plot and go investigate a random thief who may or may not have Innocence. Well, there’s a reason the show already ran 103 episodes but has actually progressed the plot about as far as most anime do in 24. That isn’t to say that this episode is bad. As I said, it’s just the way D Gray Man has always been. And it flips the switch between random and ridiculous humour in a fight sequence to deadly serious (and hey, soon to be dead orphans) so quickly. It makes you laugh, groan, roll your eyes, fill with curiosity about all the things you don’t know, support the exorcists (or at least the ones you like) and fear the enemy (which isn’t easy given their frequently clown like appearances). I know that this aspect of D Gray Man always rubbed some people the wrong way but for me, even though the tone is all over the place, it just feels right. All the different elements come together and combine with overly dramatic music and fight sequences that just make you sit up and take notice. Besides, other than Kaneki (Tokyo Ghoul), I’ve yet to meet a protagonist other than Allen Walker who I genuinely feel is in peril on a regular basis.

Oh, and Kanda was awesome this episode.

Okay, totally blew my 100 words with my happy fan girl moment but other than the voice acting (which actually did annoy me a little in the first half of this episode) this episode was such a blast of everything I remembered liking about the original series.

D Gray Man is available on AnimeLab. If you haven’t watched the original, you really have to before you can watch this, but it is worth at least trying (this is one of the few series that hadn’t been given any kind of resolution that I still rewatched over and over). Of course, if you don’t like your anime dark than maybe give it a miss because this one has some real pain in store for its characters even if it isn’t as visually confrontational as some of the more contemporary anime.